Do ecological differences between taxonomic groups influence the relationship between species’ distributions and climate? A global meta-analysis using species distribution models


H. M. Kharouba, The Biodiversity Research Centre, Univ. of British Columbia, 2212 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. E-mail:


Understanding whether and how ecological traits affect species’ geographic distributions is a fundamental issue that bridges ecology and biogeography. While climate is thought to be the major determinant of species’ distributions, there is considerable variation in the strength of species’ climate–distribution relationships. One potential explanation is that species with relatively low dispersal ability cannot reach all geographic areas where climatic conditions are suitable. We tested the hypothesis that species from different taxonomic groups varied in their climate–distribution relationships because of differences in life history strategies, in particular dispersal ability. We conducted a meta-analysis by combining the discrimination ability (AUC values) from 4317 species distribution models (SDMs) using fit as an indication of the strength of the species’ climate–distribution relationship. We found significant differences in the strength of species’ climate–distribution relationships across taxonomic groups, however we did not find support for the dispersal hypothesis. Our results suggest that relevant ecological trait variation among broad taxonomic groups may be related to differences in species’ climate–distribution relationships, however which ecological traits are important remains unclear.